Historic Queens tennis club looks to upgrade facility

March 23, 2012 4:40:43 AM PDT
The West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills has a long, rich history. But now the club is faced with the question of what to do with a piece of history that is showing its age.

The club first opened its doors in 1892 and has been a tennis lovers haven ever since. But the stadium has gone virtually unused since the U.S. Open moved to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Now, the club is left with a big challenge.

From 1915 to 1977, the tennis club was home to the U.S. Open, where Arthur Ashe made history as the first black man to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1968. It was also used as a concert venue for musical acts like Barbara Streisand and the Beatles.

But the years have not been kind to the stadium. The concrete is crumbling on the exterior, and while tennis is still played on the court, the stands are too decayed for use.

The West Side Tennis Club is considering a number of proposals to decide what to do with it. Michael Perlman is with the Rego-Forest Preservation Council.

"[I'd like to see it] preserved and creatively re-used," he said. "Landmarked on a city, state and federal level to help open the door towards funding."

One plan gaining outside support is from the Stadium Arts Alliance, which has submitted a plan to renovate the existing stadium as a year-round multi-use venue. Renderings show how the facility would look, hosting concerts and ice skating in the winter.

"Their proposal is a year-round center, which could hold exhibits, tennis, bring back some tennis games, bring back ice skating in the winter time, but make it for the community," New York City Council finance chair Dominic Recchia said. "Let's use this. Let's fix it up. Let's not destroy it. There's history here."

A few years ago, members rejected a proposal to build condos on the site. The club hopes to narrow down the proposals in the next two to three months and present ideas to its members for consideration.

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